Ultimate Banana Bread

Ultimate Banana Bread is a classic take on banana bread but with an extra step to concentrate the flavor. It can be made with very ripe or frozen bananas, and the fresh banana topping is visually striking.

ultimate banana bread

My dad is a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen.  He doesn’t cook but rather uses the show to get ideas of things for my mom and I to make him 🙂  He saw this banana bread on an episode of ATK and immediately begged me to make it.  Luckily I have a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated online and was able to find the recipe.  

ultimate banana bread

This recipe takes more work than your typical banana bread, requiring a microwaving step to release the liquid from the bananas, and then a step making a reduction from this liquid.  This microwave step can be avoided if you use frozen bananas, which I happened to have in my freezer awaiting such an occasion.  

ultimate banana bread

This bread is super moist and has a true banana flavor, as ATK intended. My dad and his friend were at our house doing some work in the basement after I had made this loaf.  They took a snack break and my dad’s friend said it was the best banana bread he’s ever had!  That certainly justifies the additional steps!  

Gluten Free Ultimate Banana Bread

I have not tried making this with my favorite gluten free flour yet, but I would bet it would work well, as I’ve had success with this flour in other baked goods!

ultimate banana bread

Looking for More Quick Bread Recipes?

Check out these other quick breads:
Double Chocolate Banana Bread
Cranberry Christmas Cake
Zucchini Bread
Poppy Seed Bread
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Pineapple Carrot Bread

Another use for ripe bananas is Daniel Tiger’s Banana Swirl! A delicious frozen treat. Also try this No Bake Banana Split Cake!

ultimate banana bread

Ultimate Banana Bread

A moist and flavorful banana bread due to an extra, but very worthwhile, step.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 1 9-inch loaf


  • 1 3/4 
 cups unbleached all purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1
 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 
 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 
 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds, peeled – see note)
  • 8
 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (1 stick)
  • 2 
 large eggs
  • 3/4 
 cup packed light brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 1 
 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 
 teaspoons granulated sugar


  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a standard loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
  • Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in the plastic. Microwave on high until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
  • Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  • Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
  • Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 50 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; in this case skip the microwave step and go straight to straining. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.
Source: America’s Test Kitchen
You’re Gonna Bake It After All
Keyword banana bread, dessert, gluten free, vegetarian

3 thoughts on “Ultimate Banana Bread”

  • 5 stars
    Smart dad 🙂

    I love those banana slices on top – so festive! This would be gone in no time at all at our place!

  • 5 stars
    Hi Meghan,
 I can’t believe that is a healthy food!
    Look at that Ultimate Banana Bread! I mean, people wouldn’t believe it too. LOL
    Thank for the recipe, anyway. 😉
    Have you ever heard about food photography site called Food Porn ?
    Your pics should be on the Food Porn home page, that's for sure!

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